Happy National Poetry Month! As we launch into this month-long celebration of poetry, there’s no better place to start than Billy Collins’s “Introduction to Poetry.” I don’t believe there’s another poet I enjoy listening to as much as I love hearing Billy Collins read his poetry. “Litany” was one of the first times I encountered Collins, and then I began to binge his work. You should especially watch his TedTalk here – the last poem he shares is particularly wonderful. Before you head there, however, let him teach how to approach a poem. It’s the key to appreciating what you’ll read this month and any time you encounter another poetic gem!
I ask them to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside the poem’s room and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
Source: The Apple that Astonished Paris (University of Arkansas Press, 1996) from Poetry Foundation